What Educators Need to Know About Kindle Synchronization

August 23, 2016: Should youSynch_Button de-synchronize your Kindles? As my lawyer might say, it depends. If you are a teacher or librarian, and you want students who are reading a copy of a book that is shared among six Kindles, the answer to the question for you may very well be YES.

Let me explain. Amazon makes it possible for you to read a book that you have purchased on whichever reading device that you happen to have with you at any time, as long as two requirements are fulfilled:

Requirement 1: Amazon software must be installed on each of your reading devices.
Requirement 2: An internet connection must be present.

When these two requirements are met, Amazon allows you to access your whole library of books that you have purchased through the Kindle store on up to six devices registered to your account, no matter where you are or what device you happen to have with you at the time.

Very cool.

For me, it means being able to fire up Drive or How We Decide or Iconoclast while waiting for a haircut or for a movie. My Michael Connelly novel is with me during rain delays and long lines at the supermarket. Synchronization means that I have achieved a state of multiple-platform nirvana wherein all my books are with me all the time.

Even better, I don’t have to remember what page I was on last time I picked up the book. The mother ship at Amazon always offers to “synch to furthest page read” when I open a book on a different device than the one I was reading on last time. This way, I never lose my place and the reading experience becomes, as Jeff Bezos would say, “frictionless.”

This is a wonderful feature, except when my wife is reading the same book on her Kindle. Then, the “furthest page read” may not be MY furthest page read; rather, it may be HER furthest page read. The synchronization feature also means that her highlights appear in “my” copy of the book and mine in hers. When there is more than one reader of a book on the account, the ability to share books among multiple Kindles/devices registered to the same account creates a conflict with the ability to synchronize one’s reading among those various devices.

(In recent months, Amazon has made this feature even better, in one sense, by offering to let you see the passages that other readers around the world have underlined. You can disable this feature by selecting “turn off” Popular Highlights on the second page of Settings in the Menu from your Home screen.)

So, synchronization is a great feature for the individual consumer/reader, but raises a special problem for teachers who want to load six copies of a book onto six different Kindles in their account for six different students to read. What to do?

How To De-Synchronize Your Kindles:

The answer is simple. You can “de-synchronize” the Kindles and other devices registered to a single account.

Just go to the page at Amazon called “Manage My Kindle” and scroll to the bottom, where you will see a link named “Manage synchronization between devices.” This is where you will find the following guidance from the Amazon team (see screen shot below, #1):

“You should turn synchronization off only if:
* You and someone else are reading the same book, AND
* The Kindles are registered to a single account”

The recommendation seems sound. So many advantages of the Amazon Kindle system flow from the synchronization feature that it only makes sense to keep it on (which is the default setting) unless it is creating a problem for you.

If you decide to “de-synchronize” because you want each device in the classroom (or at the house) to operate independently of the others, then look for the button on the right that allows you to “Turn Synchronization Off” (see illustration, #2).

Synch Screen

Click for larger image

Remember, teachers, that turning off synchronization does not in any way interfere with your ability to load books onto Kindle, or with the students’ ability to highlight passages or make notes. Those highlights and notes will simply be stored “locally,” saved only on the specific Kindle on which they were made. They can still be accessed by your or the students by tethering the Kindle to a computer with the USB cord and accessing the text file where those notes and highlights are stored.

Making Synchronization Work for Teachers:

Now, sometimes it might be cool to have multiple students commenting and highlighting a book across multiple devices. That might even become a best practice for Kindle/ereader use in the classroom. A literature circle or book club of kids take on a read together, share their notes and highlights, and then each create a summary piece of writing explaining a passage or two that received particular attention from the group. Or make the marked up text a group project, finding six passages that seem significant and each making a comment that the teacher could read and respond to or even grade.

Hint: one special power of the synchronization feature is that the highlights and comments that are made in the text by an individual or a group are available for viewing online here after login. Sign in and look at the column to the right; there you will find a icons for “Highlights” and “Notes.” Students could be required to put their name at the end of each note they create, and the teacher could browse these notes easily without have the Kindles handy or any file transfer reqquired.

So, in the end, whether you keep your devices synchronized or not just “depends” on the kind of reading experience multiple readers on a single Amazon Kindle account want to have.

  4 comments for “What Educators Need to Know About Kindle Synchronization

  1. willd
    November 1, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Great question! I would think only those after re-synch but not really sure. Anyone?

  2. Mark
    October 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Thank you for this post. I have a question: If I desynchronize my Kindles and students make highlights and notes, but then I resynchronize my Kindles, what happens? Will all notes/highlights be shared, or just the notes/highlights after I resynchronized?

  3. willd
    September 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Donna, you might want to check with the folks at the ning: edukindle.ning.com. There are lots of folks with ideas for you!


  4. September 6, 2011 at 1:46 am

    Thanks for the heads up about syncro. I’ll have 2X6 kindles for use in Highschool reading classes soon. What are teens reading at the moment that’s available and cheep?

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